Should Holy/Sacred text be taken literally

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by KnowSelf, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. KnowSelf

    KnowSelf Active Member

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    Bible college taught the Bible, God's word should be taken literally without alteration, however, how many times has the Bible language been updated and/revised or interpreted for better comprehension?
    Despite these modifications should the bible be taken literally? Examples; the creation, miracles, Jesus Son of God-crucifixion and resurrection, salvation , sin/forgiveness etc. ?
     
  2. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Imo The Christ taught in parables, to prevent every world being taken literally? And he also taught by paradox: he refused (at first) to heal the Gentile woman, saying he was come to save the lost sheep of Israel, and then he healed the Centurion's servant, saying he had not found such faith in all Israel.

    I think the crucifixion, resurrection, healing miracles and forgiveness of sin are meant to be taken literally. If we accept the NT at all. But some miracles may be exaggerated for effect without the overall message losing anything? Imo

    Should the OT be taken literally word-for-word? That depends if someone can succeed in making the words agree with 21st century science.

    It is often excruciating to witness, and it ends up with having to choose between science and the OT.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
  3. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    There is so much mystery around us. How much do we really know? Some scienctists can be extremely arrogant. They don't know everything. But I personally cannot simply choose to reject science in favour of scripture.

    I believe God gave me commonsense and the right to use it?
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
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  4. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Perhaps the scriptures of all faiths are like maps to lead the way to experience of the divine. It will be different for everybody, usually too subtle to 'prove' to anyone else.

    The map tries to outline the reality, but can never really describe it?

    After that, the actual words begin to matter less than the 'divine' they're pointing towards? So I can read something and think: Oh, yes! That touches me!
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
  5. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

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    That is right.
    However, we need to watch out for satan. Our "commonsense" is sometimes
    not what it should be ;)
     
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  6. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    You are right, of course. Thank you.

    I also like the comparison to a nut; a hard shell protects the numinous truth within. Without the shell, the truth would not be protected.

    Anyway, that's how I think about it at the moment. We are all different; opinions and understanding change and grow. Imo
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  7. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    I enjoy the map metaphor. The map is not the territory!

    Another good one is the road sign metaphor. Sitting underneath the road sign saying, "Berlin" doesn't mean I'm in Berlin if the sign is standing somewhere in Bavaria. No amount of literal reading of the sign will bring Berlin to the countryside I'm in.

    And another one: Reading the menu posted outside a restaurant. I will not still my hunger by even the most exact literal reading of the foods and prices listed there.
     
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  8. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    @Cino

    Sure. Then there's the Cargo Cult: a phrase coined by Richard Feynman.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

    The performance of a ritual in the hope it will attract benefit. Repetitive, dry prayer qualifies a bit as cargo cult, imo?
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  9. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Maybe... The original cargo cult had a purpose, to bring back the cargo. It was based on observation and imitation, but lacked adequate understanding of the context of the actions they observed and imitated.

    The same could be said for many areas of human endeavour. Plenty of cargo-cult phenomena in my professional field (IT). Religions, because of the often great antiquity of the rituals, whose context might have been lost over time, are a natural fit for cargo cult phenomena.

    Regarding the dry repetitive prayer, I'd say where the cargo-cult version differs from more fruitful ones is in the "dry"-ness. Making a repetitive task interesting and "juicy" is key to finding joy in it, in my opinion.
     
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  10. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Yes. Each to his own way. God knows what's happening in every individual heart and soul, imo.
     
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  11. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    The narrow to-be-taken-literally interpretation is the product of American Evangelicalism, not of Christian traditions per se.

    Well not that many times really. The translations are the obvious, and there have been modern (last century) 'translations' supposedly to make the text more accessible, but are actually dumbing down; they're ephemeral novelty items, really. The general idea is you lift yourself up, not that the text should dumb itself down.

    You're offering chalk-and-cheese examples. The first thing to see is there are different genres of writing, and literary devices within the genres. But generally, as most of the references you offer are from the NT, it's worth remembering the NT scribe knew the difference between literal and allegorical, between a description and a metaphor, and they do tend to signal that.
     
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  12. KnowSelf

    KnowSelf Active Member

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    I appreciate Zen philosophy and I am Christian. Does Zen endorse or support submission to God's authority? Or is God in us as we are in God. If the latter is true then we decide how much God we allow in us as we are in God.

    A highly spiritual person may be more connected by choice than one who is less spiritually connected to God by his or her choosing.

    Neither is right or wrong, but a personal preference of being.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  13. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Zen prides itself to be a transmission outside of scripture or tradition...

    (Of course this did not prevent the development of rigid teaditions or voluminous scriptures in Zen)
     
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  14. Truthseeker9

    Truthseeker9 Member

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    There's a lot of symbolism in the Bible, especially in prophecy. Also it's hard to talk about spiritual things without symbols. There is not word-for-word accuracy for what Jesus said, but it conveys the overall message well. There's a lot of history in the Bible that is suspect. What is important about any scripture is the ethical and spiritual message.
     
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  15. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    The skillful handling of symbols is key, agreed!

    to the forums, Truthseeker9! There's an intro section further down, feel free to give us some impression of what brought you here.
     
  16. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Yes that is very true. The crucifixion is (I believe) a real event full of mystery and symbolism. There are libraries full of books about the mystery and symbolism of the crucifixion.

    But what parts of scripture are the made-up ones? Nowadays the Bible has been analysed and dated. For example we are told the Book of Daniel was written during the Selucid period after the death of Alexander, and that the Book of Job is symbolic poetry.

    But there are people who believe that if I disregard the literal reality of one sentence of the scripture, I may as well disregard the whole book.

    In the end it comes around to saying if I can't take the whole of the scripture literally, I can't believe in God. There are people who think that. But then science comes along and starts shooting holes in it. And when my attempts to make a square peg fit a round hole fail, I am forced to deny the science. Some people become vocal and wish to impose their anti-science worldview on normal secular society.

    This causes a back-reaction where other people get upset and start to fight back against the scriptural zealots.

    It is a difficult conundrum for some people. Do I choose science, or scripture?

    On the other side are those who because science disproves parts of the Bible, feel they need to completely disregard even the possibility of God's existence. Some of them become militant wishing to impose their anti-God worldview. As always, the extremists on both sides make life difficult for ordinary folks.

    But I do believe some American style literalist evangelist churches really are turning people away from Christ, by making God their own property as they see it -- their 'we Christians' members only club.

    As @Thomas and others have observed, it seems to originate as an American thing, mostly. A third of the world's population are Christian, many different varieties. It's a pity the American evangelists have to force their own narrow ideas. Imo

    edited ...
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
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  17. Truthseeker9

    Truthseeker9 Member

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    It's interesting you bring up Daniel. I'm a Baha'i and we believe there are numerous time prophecies that point to the advent of the Bab in 1844, and Baha'u'llah's advent in 1863. It's amazing how they work out when you interpret them symbolically in a certain way. At the same time I'm aware of problems have with the dating of Daniel by scholars. There are certain things in Daniel that look suspicious to me, too. I've also looked a little bit at what Christians have said about this. I don't trust either side, especially the Christians. I don't know what to make of this. It's caused me some doubts.

    I recognize that Job is not history, but the Baha'i writings have spoken of Job as someone who kept his faith in adversity. But I think sometimes the Writings address scripture according to the understandings of those who are addressed and build on that to establish a spiritual principle regardless of whether something is a historical fact. Baha'u'llah said:

    O Son of Beauty!

    By My spirit and by My favor! By My mercy and by My beauty! All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice.
    “The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh” , a67

    In other words if someone believes that Job is a historical figure, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha will build on what he or she understands to make a point. It also is possible that Job existed and a story was built around him.

    I believe that the stories of miracles in Joshua are nonsense, especially the sun stopping in its course. I don't think that hundreds of thousands of Hebrews escaped from Egypt, but I read a book by a scholar that was convincing that the Levi tribe only escaped from Egypt, but without all those miracles, and that they peacefully joined the Hebrews in Egypt without miraculous warfare being waged. Moses had an Egyptian name even though in the Bible they try to derive Moses from the Hebrew and there are other Levi's that had Egyptian names. The Levi's ended up being the priests because of this.

    I don't think that Solomon could have had as much influence as described in the Bible because outside the Bible he was never mentioned by contemporaries. Following Islam, Baha'is believe that he was a prophet king and that's where his real significance, not some great wealth and influence, though he was wise.

    I don't care for literalist narrow Christian evangelists either, and they are too political. They care more about issues like abortion than morality as evidenced in their blind support of Trump. They have sold themselves out that way. I'm glad that at least one evangelical publication doesn't see it that way, but most evangelical leaders have discredited themselves.
     
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  18. KnowSelf

    KnowSelf Active Member

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    As a Christian, the emergent of various religions into one practice reminds me of the End Days and mark of the beast, I mean no offense.
     
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  19. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Totally agree.
     
  20. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    We have a way to make a perfect world: no worries, all you have to do is believe us and support us and do what we say. No worries: It'll all be fine.

    "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which."

    The last line of "Animal Farm" by George Orwell

     

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